The H1B visa and L1 (L1A and L1B) Visa are among the popular temporary visas used by US employers to hire foreign workers. If you are a foreign worker intending to work in the US, you may hear your prospective employer talk about these visa types.
The H1B Visa is a non-immigrant visa that can be used to hire a foreign professional. To be eligible under this visa type, the prospective foreign worker needs to hold a Bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and possess experience in the specific field; meanwhile, the US employer must demonstrate the capacity to hire a foreign worker and the lack of qualified US applicants for the vacancy.
There is an annual cap or quota for the number of available H1B visas each year. According to visa lawyers, this quota is typically reached and oversubscribed within just a few days after the opening of the application. A lottery is done in April for H1B visas that will commence in October of the same year. Due to the very limited number of visas, obtaining an H1B visa is quite difficult.
The L1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that can be used to hire a foreign professional in a managerial or executive position. The foreign worker must work within the same company or its subsidiary, and transferring to US-based operations. The L1 may also be used by foreign companies setting up operations within the US. The validity of this visa is dependent on the citizenship of the foreign worker but typically ranges from 3 months to 5 years.
The visa processes and requirements for the L1 variants are almost the same. The major differences are in terms of the visa validity period and the path towards the green card.
There are key differences between these visa types that employers and workers need to consider.
As mentioned above, the L1 Visas are reserved for foreign workers who are transferring to a US-based branch of their company. It may also be availed by a foreign-based company planning to operate within the US.
The H1B visa is strict when it comes to the educational qualification (Bachelor’s degree) and relevant experience of the applicant. With L1 visa, there are no specific degree requirements.
Any US-based company can petition a foreign worker through H1B visa. Meanwhile, L1 visa is typically applicable to multinational companies with offices abroad who wish to transfer a foreign worker (managerial or executive level position) in US-based operations of the same company.
H1B visa grants an initial 3-year stay but can be extended to a maximum of 6 years. For the L1 visa, the L1A grants a maximum of 7 years while L1B grants up to 5 years. There are no extensions for the L1 visa types.
Unlike H1B Visa, the L1 visa is not covered by an annual cap. The H1B visa has a limit of 85,000 visas per year: 65,000 of which is for regular filing while 20,000 is intended for Master’s degree holders.
The L1 visa does not require Approval from the US Department of Labor. For the H1B Visa, the employer/petitioner needs to secure a labor certification. They need to demonstrate that there are no qualified American workers to fill in the job.
With H1B visa, you can change employers while maintaining the current H1B Visa. There is no need to get permission from the previous employer but there must be a legal contractual agreement. The new employer must also file an H1B Visa Transfer petition. On the other hand, the L1 visa is tied to the employment contract, hence, the worker loses the L1 visa status if they change their employer. The new employer will have to secure an applicable working visa.
The H1B and L1 visas have their own pros and cons. As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider in determining which visa type best applies in your case. It is not only your eligibility that is considered but as well as that of the prospective employer. To help evaluate your case better and more thoroughly, it is best to seek the help of an immigration lawyer.